Sunak urged to use Budget to reverse pay freeze plan

PCS union says economic cost of Covid “shouldn’t fall on public sector workers’ shoulders“

By Richard Johnstone

02 Mar 2021

Rishi Sunak has been urged to reverse plans for a civil service pay freeze when he sets out his Budget tomorrow.

In a statement, the Public and Commercial Services union called on Sunak to “do the right thing” and recognise the immense contribution of civil servants in the coronavirus pandemic response.

Calling for a Budget to “address the unprecedented and ongoing challenges presented by the pandemic”, the civil service’s biggest union said that plans for a civil service pay freeze in 2021-22, first announced by the chancellor in November, would leave civil servants with a another real-terms cut to their pay after a decade of restraint.

Despite some public sector workers being exempt from the freeze, the Treasury has made it clear that the pay remit for the civil service is 0%, which PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said left civil servants paying for the cost of Covid.

“During a time of national crisis, PCS members have gone above and beyond the call of duty. They’ve been on the frontline, delivering the essential services the public relies on. To reward this hard work and dedication with a pay freeze is deeply insulting,” he said.

“There is widespread support and recognition of the vital work our members have done during the pandemic and Rishi Sunak should do the right thing and give them the pay rise they deserve. It simply isn’t fair for the huge economic cost of the pandemic to fall on the shoulders of public sector workers.”

The call comes after the PCS and other civil service unions approved HMRC’s freeze-busting pay deal, which included a three-year wage increase alongside a major overhaul of employment terms.

PCS also called on the government to increase support for people affected by Covid restrictions, warning that the road back to normality “will be a long one and the virus still represents a major threat to people’s health and livelihoods”.

In particular, it called on the government to increase statutory sick pay, widen the eligibility criteria for Covid isolation payments, and end outsourcing of government work to ensure parity and fairness across the civil service workforce.

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